Listen and Learn

It's from podcasts like This American Life, The TED Radio Hour and 99% Invisible that I came to believe that the best podcasts are well-produced: they have a central theme with integrated sound bites and interview segments and narrative segways. They aren't just people talking for an hour without any editing. Then I heard SpyCast, Covert Contact and Pod Save America. I'm sure they're also edited to remove burps and phones and sirens, but they are fairly straightforward interviews or conversation, and they're completely amazing. So really, it's whatever works for you. These are a few of my favorite listenings.


  • SpyCast 
    "Each week, the International Spy Museum offers a new SpyCast featuring interviews and programs with ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars. SpyCast is hosted by Dr. Vince Houghton, historian and curator at the International Spy Museum. Dr. Houghton specializes in intelligence, diplomatic, and military history, with expertise in the late-WWII and early-Cold War eras."
  • Intelligence Matters 
    "In Intelligence Matters, former acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell, speaks with top leaders of the U.S. intelligence community as they reflect on their life, career and the critical roles they play in shaping national security policies."
  • Covert Contact: The Blogs of War Podcast 
    "Covert Contact covers the key national security, intelligence, and technology stories that are shaping our world."
  • Hackable 
    Hosts: "Geoff Siskind, digs into the minds of cyber criminals with cybersecurity expert, and Bruce Snell, giving us an in-depth view of the vulnerabilities we face so we can stay observant, and out of the hacker’s path."
  • The Cipher Brief 
    "The Cipher Brief is a digital, security-based conversation platform that connects the private sector with the world`s leading security experts. We deliver a relevant analysis of news and events that helps readers accurately anticipate and safely navigate the complex, unstable, global security environment. The Cipher Brief was founded by former CNN Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly on the belief that reporting on the latest security breaches or global security issues alone won`t always help find solutions to the bigger problems. Engaging the private sector in a solutions-based conversation is what moves the ball down the field."


  • Pod Save America 
    "Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — are joined by journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists for a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency."
  • RadioLab: More Perfect 
    "From the producers of Radiolab, a series about how the Supreme Court got so supreme."
  • The Ezra Klein Show 
    "Ezra Klein gives you a chance to get inside the heads of the newsmakers and power players in politics and media. These are extended conversations with policymakers, writers, technologists, and business leaders about what they believe in and why."
  • With Friends Like These 
    Ana Marie Cox, "...talks to liberals and conservatives, religious leaders, writers, activists, and people you should know for a show that's about listening instead of arguing."
  • Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air 
    "...a podcast where he weighs in on the issues of the week and interviews guests in the worlds of politics, entertainment, culture, sports, and beyond."
  • Feminasty 
    "...a podcast about feminism, resistance, and revolution in Trump's America."
  • Civics 101 
    Short episodes on singular topics like: CIA, Supreme Court, the electoral college, nuclear weapons, welfare, super PACs, etc.


  • Astronomy Cast 
    By Frasier Cain, who publishes Universe Today, and his guest host Dr. Pamela Gay, who will unperturbedly mispronounce at least one totally ordinary word in every episode. (It's "material" not "meturial".) But, I love this podcast. I've been listening since 2010 when I lived at the Allen Telescope Array, where learned that I can understand science and am not inherently limited in my ability to know things. It was quite a summer!
  • Science Friday 
    Y'know, science. The guy's voice is a bit of a challenge for me, but sometimes the topic is worth it.
  • Stuff They Don't Want You To Know 
    Two guys talk about things that used to be conspiracy theories but later turned out to be true, like Disney buying up entire towns and COINTELPRO.
  • Invisibilia 
    "...explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior—things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions."
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz 
    Stories about and interviews with self-starters, entrepreneurs.
  • You Are Not So Smart 
    "A celebration of self-delusion." Genius.
  • Hidden Brain 
    "About Unconscious Human Behavior, and Biases that direct our Relationships"
  • 99% Invisible 
    About, "the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world." Host Roman Mars has the most soothing voice I've ever heard. I wish he and Chan Marshall would read me bedtime stories.
  • The Allusionist 
    "A podcast about language by Helen Zaltzman." She's hilarious and British.
  • TED Radio Hour 
    Each episode has a general theme like fear, happiness, leadership, or work. There are ~2-4 stories with excerpts from a TED talk and an interview with the speaker. Excellently produced.
  • This American Life 
    My first podcast; the one that started me on the glorious road of story listening and learning. The stories I've heard here have changed my life, marked me, opened my eyes, broken my heart and healed it back up. Truly grateful this exists.